✏️ Updated on 1st September 2021
Welcome my watery friends to my ‘Surfboard Buying Guide 2021’. If you’re here, you must be after some guidance for the sick new stick you’re thinking of buying!
In this post we’ll be looking at all the major things you need to consider when doing your surfboard buying research. This buying guide is aimed at those new to surfing but can help those of all surfing abilities find their next surfboard.
Here’s what we’ll be covering…
1. What Surfboard Should I Get?
2. Understanding Your Surfing Ability
3. Level 1 – Never surfed before
4. Level 2 – Learning beginner standing up
5. Level 3 – Intermediate doing turns
6. Level 4 – Pro doing cutbacks
7. Level 5 – Big wave legend
8. Surfboard Size Charts
9. What Surfing Accessories Do I Need?
10. Surfboard Care
1. What Surfboard Should I Get?
Let’s start with the obvious question, what surfboard should I get?
Well, the answer to this great question is quite hard to determine. That is because everyone reading this blog post will have different levels of surfing ability.
2. Understanding Your Surfing Ability
Surfers come in many shapes and sizes, but measuring ability has always been tricky. The standard ‘beginner, intermediate, advanced’ is not super descriptive – so I went ahead and created my own surfing ability levels…
3. Level 1 – Never Surfed Before
So you’re a brand new starter in the world of surfing, welcome onboard – pun fully intended.
Let me start by saying…picking the wrong first surfboard is one of the most common mistakes new surfers make. I’ve seen so many beginner surfers trying to surf on boards that are either too short and/or have little to no volume.
But that’s not going to happen here. Below are the two surfboard types that every beginner surfer should start with before moving onto anything else.
- Foam surfboards – The best way to start is to start with the best. Foam surfboards are designed specifically for never surfed before beginners and are perfect for a number of reasons. They hold loads of volume, they’re very durable and typically low cost. If you’ve ever seen a surf school at the beach, this is what they’ll be using. You cannot go wrong with a foam surfboard as a Level 1 surfer.
- Mini mals – A more adventurous choice for a Level 1 would be the mini mal. Having never surfed before these might be a stretch at first but are a great investment if you know surfing is a long term deal. The majority of mini mals still offer great volume and more progression than a foam surfboard.
4. Level 2 – Learning Beginner Standing Up
Those at this ability level can stand up on a wave most of the time and are trying to really nail down their basic techniques. Level 2’s will also want to start trying out some bottom turns once the basics start to become second nature.
If that sounds even more like you, here are the surfboards that you should be looking at…
- Mini mals – The perfect choice for a Level 2. Having experienced the surfing basics on a foam surfboard, a mini mal will help that progression for those first turns. High amounts of volume helps keep you catching lots of waves whilst more manoeuvrability will help you start progressing that bottom turn.
- Longboards – The longboard is another worthy choice for a Level 2 surfer. With more volume and straight line speed than a mini mal this is another good option for surfers wanting to progress. This is the longest surfboard though so keep storage and transportation in mind.
- Funboards – The ‘out there’ choice for a Level 2. With less volume then both the longboard and the mini mal, a funboard offers less in stability. However, in return this surfboard type is much more manoeuvrable and so is great for offering long term surfing progression.
5. Level 3 – Intermediate Doing Turns
Surfers falling into this ability level should have a good number of waves under their belt.
Most Level 3 surfers will probably have owned their own surfboard by this time as well. The pop-up technique is solid and the bottom turns are starting to progress.
These are the surfboard types for the Level 3’s.
- Funboards – Offering a great balance between wave catching ability and manoeuvrability is the funboard. The safer choice for a Level 3 but great for keeping that wave count up to continue improving those bottom turns. These surfboards perform well in a wide range of conditions so are a great addition to any surfboard quiver.
- Fish surfboards – The more daring choice for a Level 3 surfer who wants to shorten their board. Fish surfboards are perfect for those mushy conditions and easier to transport than the funboard. Watch out though, with less volume and length comes less stability and a harder time paddling
- Longboards – Yes the longboard makes it’s second appearance on this list. Level 3’s are all about perfecting their bottom turns and longboards are a great surfboard to do that on. The length means they catch green waves for days and the volume gives that stability to do super chilled out big, slow turns.
6. Level 4 – Pro Doing Cutbacks
If you’re this far down the list then you probably already know this stuff. You’ve mastered the bottom turn and are ironing out the creases in your cutbacks.
If that’s sounds familiar, here are the surfboard types most suitable for Level 4 surfers.
- Fish surfboards – The fish surfboard type is a great shape for Level 4’s and offer fun in typical UK mush. The swallow tail creates two pivot points to allow for more manoeuvrability in both directions. Available in sizes ranges from 5ft 4 all the way to 6ft 4.
- Shortboards – The most common surfboard for a Level 4 surfer. The shortboard provides the highest level of performance in the right conditions. With a narrower shape and squarer tail then the fish, the shortboard generates great speed on a wave and is capable of rapid turns and cutbacks.
7. Level 5 – Big Wave Legend
The final surfing ability level is reserved for our big wave legends.
Now, if you’re actually a big wave legend (as in you eat 15ft swells for breakfast) than that’s actually mental. By now you’ll know every trick in the book and have a huge amount of surfing experience.
For those mega swells this is the only surfboard you should be riding…
- Gun – When there’s big waves chasing you down there’s only one surfboard type you want under your feet, that surfboard is the gun. With its long shape, narrow profile and large rocker, this thing was designed to help you outrun the biggest waves in the ocean.
8. Surfboard Size Charts
By now you should know your surfing ability and have an idea about the surfboard type you want.
The next bit of this surfboard buying guide is trying to nail down what size surfboard you need. Again, this is quite difficult to do as I’ve seen plenty of big guys rip on small boards. For arguments sake, take the below tables with a pinch of salt.
If you wanted a fancy quiz that tell’s you what surfboard is right for you, check out my ‘What surfboard should I get quiz’.
9. What Surfboard Accessories Do I Need?
By now I’m hoping this surfboard buying guide has helped you with:
- Your Surfing Ability
- Your Best Surfboard Type
- Your Ideal Surfboard Size
But what else do you need to get going? Two things are guaranteed, storage space and a means of transporting your surfboard.
This next section will go through all the other surfboard accessories you can get to become a fully fledged surfing wannabe.
Yes, you’ll need some decent surfboards fins. If you’re a Level 1 or even a Level 2, most surfboard packages come with fins included. These packages take away the hassle of fin compatibility and sometimes even come with a leash and bag included!
But how many surfboard fins should you have and how they should be setup? Well, the most common fin setup to use (and the one I recommend) is known as the ‘Thruster’ setup which uses three fins. For more details on each fin setup and what each setup offers the surfer, check out my types of surfboard fin setup guide.
One thing worth pointing out…not every surfboard fin is compatible with every surfboard. There are two main fin brands that dominate the surfboard fin market; FCS and Future Fins. These fins are shaped differently and only fit into their respective fix boxes. For example, a set of FCS fins would not fit into a surfboard that has Future Fin boxes and visa versa.
This is one of the more confusing things to learn as a new surfer. So, if you’re buying your surfboard and fins separately – be sure to check they’re compatible with each other.
The next thing you’ll want is a surfboard leash. This thing will save you countless swims back to shore when you fall off, and you will fall off.
Here are a few tips before purchasing one;
- When buying a leash make sure it is at least the length of the surfboard its attached to if not slightly longer.
- The leash length in the product description is just the length of the cord and does not include the other stuff (the cuff that attaches to you or the rail saver that attaches to your board).
- The thicker the leash the stronger it is. I usually get a thickness between 6-8mm and haven’t had a leash snap on me yet. If you’re a performance surfer, you’ll probabaly want a thinner leash as it will create less drag in the water.
- Get at least one swivel feature to reduce the chances of it getting tangled up – I go for double swivel leashes.
There’s a pretty tasty collection of the best surfboard leashes on this site, so go and check them out.
The last thing on the ‘will definitely need’ list is surfboard wax. With such a broad range of temperatures, coat types, smells and overall quality – which one do you need?
The easiest way to find out which surfboard wax you need is to know the temperature of the water you’ll be surfing in. Once you know the temperature it’s as easy as checking the table below for the type you need, from Extra Cold to Tropical.
If you’re after some gnarly surfboard wax be sure to check out the awesome range in the store.
Although surfboard wax provides a great amount of grip, some surfers opt to add an additional tailpad, also known as a traction pad.
Benefits of a tailpad are:
- Tailpads offer superior grip to enable much more powerful turns when compared to just wax.
- They also offer a solid rear foot platform for anyone thinking of doing aerials.
- Using a tailpad will mean using less surfboard wax.
- Lastly, the tailpad also helps protect the surfboards tail from knocks and dings.
Negatives of a tailpad are:
- Tailpads are notoriously hard to move once they’re stuck in place, so you have to get it right first time.
- Getting on and off the board can cause chaffing when you’re not in a wetsuit.
- Tailpads don’t really get on well with foam surfboards, especially if you decide to remove it.
For some of the freshest tailpad designs be sure to check out our range.
10. Surfboard Care
Once all the above is covered, the next thing to consider is how to protect that fancy new surfboard.
All of this stuff can add up to one expensive bill and you’ll want to make sure that investment is going to last. This crucial section in our surfboard buying guide covers that all important surfboard care.
Get A Surfboard Bag
If you only do one in this section make sure it’s this one.
A surfboard bag is (in my opinion) the most important surfing accessory you can buy. It helps you carry your board from A to B but more importantly protects it from the outside world. Remember, more than 60% of your dings will happen out of the water, a surfboard bag reduces that number.
Tips when looking for a new surfboard bag;
- Get a surfboard bag at least four inches longer than your actual surfboard. I have just about got away with it with my current surfboard bag but wish I got a slightly bigger one.
- Get an actual surfboard bag, surfboard socks are the lower cost alternative but don’t do as good a job. The difference in the level of protection is large so the extra cost to buy a proper bag is certainly worth it.
If you’re after the best surfboard bags available, there are some great examples in the store.
Heat, Direct Sunlight & Salt Water
Like wetsuits, three things have a destructive effect overtime on a surfboard; heat, direct sunlight and salt water.
The heat and direct sunlight can be solved by a surfboard bag, so that bit’s easy. The salt water is also easy to address, simply drying off your surfboard with a towel after each session. If there’s an outdoor shower near the beach, feel free to cuddle up to your surfboard and rinse off any salt water before travelling back home.
All of these things require a slight change in routine but will help keep your surfboard in its best condition.
Gravity Will Win
We all do this and we know we shouldn’t…leaning our surfboards vertically against a wall *gasps*.
Yes, it takes up the least amount of storage space. Yes, it’s the most convenient way to put down your surfboard. But, it will fall over one day and when that finally happens don’t come crying to me. If you’re going to lean it against a wall atleast have it inside a protective surfboard bag or surfboard sock.
If you do have the space, a surfboard rack in a temperature controlled room is the best way to store your surfboard.
Fix Your Dings
This one goes without saying, if you have a hole in your surfboard – plug it. Unfixed dings are a real killer to surfboard performance. Once the water gets in it’s a very hard job to get that surfboard back to its original condition.
How do I know if a ding needs fixing? If your fingernail can be caught in the crack that’s a ding in need of repair.
My top tip would be to get into the routine of checking the condition of your surfboard before heading out. Doesn’t need to be an extensive check but will help. If you’re unsure how to fix surfboard dings your local surf shop will be able to sort you out.
Ding repair kits are essential to any surfers accessory bag, buy it and then forget about it.
The final bit of surfboard care advice is to try and be aware of your surroundings when you’re surfing. This may sound stupid but a surfers environment can change very quickly without them even realising it.
- Beware of any potential rocks – these may not have been a problem when entering the sea but might become a problem before leaving it.
- Don’t ride your surfboard into the sand – Surfboard fins can be very expensive so are not something we want to lose. Hopping off your surfboard before it’s too shallow to surf will prevent them falling out or getting damaged.
And that my good friends concludes my ‘Surfboard Buying Guide 2021’, I hope you found it useful.
There are a couples more topics worth mentioning on the subject of this surfboard buying guide: ‘Renting vs Buying’ and ‘Brand New vs Second Hand’. Both of these posts contain some helpful tips regarding each scenario so be sure to check them out.
Hopefully this surfboard buying guide has given you everything you need to make your decision the right decision. As always, be sure to follow on the usual socials below to keep up to date with the latest surfing content!
Next read: ‘Types of Surfboards’